RUNDU – University of Namibia vice chancellor Kenneth Matengu said the institution is conducting studies on seed production in Kavango East. During a graduation ceremony held at the university’s Rundu campus on Thursday, he announced that scientists have so far tested more than 54 varieties of white maize, more than 24 varieties of mahangu, 56 varieties of wheat, and six potato varieties.
“In this region, we have been working closely with the ministry of agriculture to do studies on seed production. We received preliminary results about this, and it’s a project that we are working very closely in with the agronomic board,” he added.
About 383 women and 206 men graduated in two separate sessions in various academic fields. “If I were to ask a question, what is the highest tonnage you receive per hectare as a communal farmer, would someone be able to answer me? I think if you are really very successful, you would get about between eight and 12 tonnes of maize per hectare, or something between six and eight tonnes of mahangu per hectare,” he said.
“But our research, particularly in Mashare, has revealed that this can be increased with new varieties using precision agriculture. The results have shown that we go up to 18 tonnes per hectare, and we have made a selection of those best varieties, which in the coming years when we finalise our research we will be injecting into the Namibian economy,” he noted.
During the graduation ceremony, Vice President (VP) Nangolo Mbumba congratulated the cohort of 2022 for their perseverance, determination, courage and resilience which enabled them to succeed amidst the challenges of Covid 19. “Upon the announcement of Covid-19 in Namibia in March 2020, Unam had to quickly devise ways and means on how to shift from a face-to-face mode of teaching, learning and assessment to online or virtual platforms,” he said. Due to that unforeseen paradigm shift, both the academic staff and students felt the impact of virtual teaching, learning and assessment.
“This is the case particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, considering connectivity challenges, especially in rural and remote areas, and data costs that are so high, a common factor in Namibia and other countries in the Southern African subregion,” he continued.
According to Mbumba, the 2021 UNESCO global survey on the impact of Covid-19 on higher education revealed, amongst others, that the disease impacted on enrolments or access to higher education in various degrees, depending on income levels and government funding support.
Furthermore, the pandemic negatively affected the international mobility of staff and students, although virtual mobility could compensate for physical mobility. “In general, Covid-19 worsened existing inequalities in higher education, disrupted research and community engagement activities of universities, and reduced internship opportunities. The University of Namibia in this case was not an exception,’’ Mbumba said.
Despite these challenges, students were determined to pursue their studies to the end, and the graduation event was testimony of their commitment and hard work. “If there is a lesson to be learned from the Covid-19 experience, then that lesson is that resilience is the cornerstone of success. And as the saying goes – ‘where there is a will, there is always a way’-,” he observed.
During the graduation occasion, the VP was delighted to observe that the campus had evolved and continues to transform and diversify its academic programmes, as well as expand and improve the infrastructure into state-of-the-art and modern facilities. From the 2022 academic year, the campus has enrolled 3 013 students. This figure comprises 1 579 female and 1 434 male students.
This enrolment figure entails 52% females and 48% males. It includes two marginalised students, a female and a male. The campus has now 100 staff members (70 academic and 30 administrative).
Meanwhile, former Kavango East governor ambassador Samuel Mbambo urged the graduates to make use of the knowledge and skills which they have acquired to solve many problems that the African continent is confronted with. He said Africa has become a laughing stock, a shame and a disgrace, because she has become a home of hunger, a battlefield of all types of wars, and the fertile soil where poverty flourishes. Mbambo thus asked the graduates to change the status quo.